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This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Register your company now at www.employeerecommended.com.

Each day we have a defined amount of time – 24 hours. A typical day for a working professional can be broken into three blocks of time:

  • 10 hours’ work, which includes time for commuting, preparation and time at work
  • Six to eight hours’ sleep
  • That leaves six to eight hours for life that includes: chores, hobbies, exercise, parenting and quality time with your partner.

Being able to manage your time with your key priorities is a micro skill that can improve your life both at home and at work. Especially for your relationships.

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People fall in and out of love without being aware of how time impacts relationships. When people fall in love they typically make each other a priority – regardless of what else they have going on in their lives -- and spend as many non-working hours together as possible.

Life is filled with demands, pressures, decision and priorities. In A Relationship Survival Guide  I suggested there are three things that define a relationship: things done for others, things directed at others and things done with others.

Time with the person we claim to love is the only way to strengthen and keep the bond that fuels trust and intimacy. When one or both partners stop making time for each other, the relationship acts like an hourglass: once the sand stops flowing, so does the relationship.

After 30 years of providing counselling, I have learned that what may save many marriages and relationships is for both people to monitor their quality time together daily. Each couple will define what works for them.

The following three steps frame how to leverage the micro skill of time management.

Awareness

  • Establish time with a baseline. For one week each person determines how many quality minutes they spend with their partner daily. Each partner keeps their own private log for seven days to obtain a daily average.
  • Review and compare time baselines. Each person shares their results. Then the couple discusses what they learned, what they would like to change, what their ideal target would be, with the knowledge that every day may not be the same.

Accountability

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  • Find links. Each person takes accountability for creating communication links to ensure they stay in contact and plan out when they will spend physical time with their partner. Things that can help include writing love notes, texts, phone calls, and video chats. Taking time to do this can help your partner know you care and are thinking about them.
  • Be true to yourself. Time with one another is important if it’s what you really want. Love is not an act, and it’s hard to fake. If you are in love you will want to be with the other person.

Action

  • Commit the time. Each couple will have their minimum amount of time they need daily to maintain a healthy relationship. Weekends may have a different expectation.
  • Spend your time together wisely. When couples are honest and open they can spend their time doing things that support love versus debating or testing it. It takes trust and time with one another to feel comfortable about saying what you really want.
  • Monitor your time. Ensure you both are aware of what your target is and make corrections when you’re off course. One daily best practice is to complete a mental check before you close your eyes each night. Did you spend the time you wanted with the person you love? If not, smile and go to sleep, knowing that you have a chance to correct that issue the next day.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link: http://tgam.ca/workplaceaward

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